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Full text of "[Letter to] My dear May [manuscript]"

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Dear Sir: — 

At a public meeting of Clergymen for the discussion of their duty in relation to Slavery, held at the Bulfinch Street 
Vestry, Boston, May 29th, 1845, it was 

Resolved, That a Committee he appointed to draw up and circulate for signatures among the Ministers of the Unitarian 
Body, a Protest against the Institution of American Slavery as unchristian and inhuman, and to publish it when signed. 
It was also resolved that the undersigned should be a Committee to draw up and circulate this Protest. 
In accordance with these resolutions we have prepared and now transmit to you the accompanying Protest, respectfully 
requesting that you will, if it should be consistent with your views, give us permission to affix to it your name. 

It is desirable that the names of those who intend to sign the Protest should be transmitted as soon as possihle to the 
Rev. C. Stetson, Medford, Mass., without the charge of postage to the Committee, as they have not been provided with the 
means of defraying any expenses. 

C. STETSON, WM. H. CHANNING, 

J. F. CLARKE, G. W. BRIGGS, 

S. G. BULFINCH, SAM'L J. MAY, 
O. STEARNS, A. P. PEABODY, 



J. PARKMAN, 
WM. P. TILDEN, 
S. MAY. 



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PROTEST 



Against American Slavery by 



Unitarian Ministers. 



We, the undersigned, disciples of Christ and Ministers of his Gospel, in bearing our solemn testimony against the system 
of American Slavery, deem it proper in the first place to declare the grounds of our action. 

1. We owe it to three millions of Slaves, our fellow-men and brethren, to do what we can to undo their burdens by calm 
and earnest appeals to the reason and consciences of the Slaveholders. The wrongs of the Slave, however distant he may 
be, are our wrongs ; for Jesus has taught us that every sufferer whom we can relieve is our neighbor, though a stranger, of 
another race and in a distant land. 

2. We owe it to the Slaveholders, our fellow-men and brethren, whom we believe to be in a position hostile to the influ- 
ences of Christianity, to speak a word of warning concerning the moral evil and inhumanity of the system with which they 
are connected. 

3. We are the more obliged to bear this testimony because the Gospel of Christ cannot now be fully preached in the 
Slaveholding States. If it could, it might be less necessary to express our views in the present form. But violent and law- 
less men, as is well known, and as recent instances in our own experience show, have made it impossible for the Southern 
minister to declare the whole counsel of God by speaking freely of that particular sin with which the community he addresses 
is specially concerned. Consequently Southern men of better character, who would not, perhaps, themselves sanction such 
constraint, are nevertheless left without instruction as to their duty in relation to slavery. And if neither religion nor the 
instincts of humanity, nor the first principles of American liberty have taught them that the system is wrong, their ignorance 
may not be wholly their fault, but it would be ours were we to suffer it to remain. That they have been educated to believe 
that Slaveholding is right, may be a reason why we should not severely blame them, but it is also a reason why we should 
show them the truth ; since the truth on this subject must come to them, if at all, from the free States, through books, writ- 
ings, and public opinion. 

4. These reasons would induce us to speak even if the North were doing nothing to uphold Slavery. But by our politi- 
cal commercial and social relations with the South, by the long silence of Northern Christians and Churches, by the fact that 
Northern men, going to the South, often become Slaveholders and apologists for Slavery, we have given the Slaveholders 
reason to believe that it is only the accident of our position which prevents us from engaging in this system as fully as them- 
selves. Our silence therefore is upholding Slavery, and we must speak against it in order not to speak in its support. 

5. Especially do we feel that the denomination which takes for its motto " Liberty, Holiness and Love," should be fore- 
most in opposing this system. More than others we have contended for three great principles, — individual liberty, perfect 
righteousness, and human brotherhood. All of these are grossly violated by the system of Slavery. We contend for mental 
ft-eedom; shall we not denounce the system which fetters both mind and body? We have declared righteousness to be the 
essence of Christianity; shall we not oppose that system which is the sum of all wrong? We claim for all men the right of 
brotherhood before a universal Father; ought we not to testify against that which tramples so many of our brethren under 
foot? 



6. These reasons would lead us to speak individually and separately. But our combined voices may be heard more 
widely and be more regarded; and we therefore speak in company. As our principles forbid us to combine in subscribing 
creeds and fixing systems of theology, the more should we be ready to unite in practical endeavor to remove moral evils. As 
we do not claim to judge our brethren who are Slaveholders, to exclude them from Christian fellowship or communion, the 
more should we testify against the Slave system itself. Some individuals may hold Slaves for the sake of their bondmen, 
in order to give them their liberty under more favorable circumstances. We cannot regard such Slaveholders as we do those 
who hold their fellow beings as property for the sake of gain or personal convenience. Leaving to God to decide on the 
comparative guilt or innocence of individual Slaveholders, we pronounce the system unchristian and inhuman. 

7. And more especially do we feel bound to lift up our voices at the present time, when the South has succeeded in 
compromising the nation to the support of Slavery ; when it has been made a great national interest, defended in our national 
diplomacy, and to be upheld by our national arms; when the nation has, by a new measure, solemnly assumed the guilt and 
responsibility of its continuance; when free Northern citizens, without any alledged crime, are thrown into Southern prisons 
and sold to perpetual bondage ; when our attempts to appeal respectfully to the Federal Courts are treated with contumely, so 
that the question is no longer whether Slavery shall continue in the Southern States, but whether Freedom shall continue in 
any of the States. Now, therefore, when our reliance on political measures has failed, it is the time to trust more fully in the 
power of Truth. To the schemes of party leaders, to political majorities, to the united treasures, arms, domains and interests 
of the nation, pledged to the extension and perpetuation of the system, let us now oppose the simple majesty and omnipotence 
of Truth. " For who knows not that Truth is strong, — next the Almighty ?" 

We, therefore, ministers of the Gospel of Truth and Love, in the name of God the universal Father, in the name of 
Christ the Redeemer, in the name of Humanity and Human Brotherhood, do solemnly protest against the system of Slavery, 
as unchristian and inhuman, — 

Because it is the violation of the law of Right, being the sum of all unrighteousness which man can do to man, depriving 
him not only of his possessions but of himself. And, as in the possession of oneself are included all other possessions, and in 
the right to oneself are included all other rights, he who makes a man a slave commits the greatest possible robbery and the 
greatest possible wrong. 

Because it violates the law of Love, which says, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so un- 
to them." 

Because it degrades man, the image of God, into a thing; changes persons into property ; and, by violating the dignity of 
the human soul, is a constant sacrilege against that soul which the Scriptures declare to be the " Temple of the Holy Ghost." 

Because it necessarily tends to pollute the soul of the Slave, — producing all vices and fostering habits of indolence, 
sensuality, falsehood, treachery, theft, moral stupor and perpetual childhood, — by taking away Hope, which God has appoint- 
ed as the lightener of toil, the spur to exertion, and the seed of progress, and by destroying the sense of responsibility, which 
is the bond that connects the soul with God. 

Because it tends to defile the soul of the master, as unlimited power must generally produce self-indulgence, licentious- 
ness, cruelty, arrogance and a domineering spirit, — qualities utterly opposed to the humility, meekness and self-denial of 
Christ. We cheerfully admit that some, both of the Slaveholders and Slaves, have nobly resisted these influences and shown 
us virtues which we should be proud to imitate. But we know that the prevailing tendency of the system is nevertheless 
evil, and that it must always offer manifold temptations and inevitable occasions to sin. 

Because this system, as the indispensable condition of its continuance, must restrict education, keep the Bible from the 
Slave, make life insecure in the hands of irresponsible power, deprive female innocence of protection, sanction adultery, tear 
children from parents and husbands from wives, violate the divine institution of families, and by hard and hopeless toil make 
existence a burden. 

Because Slavery, as all history testifies, eats out the heart of nations, and tends every year more and more to sear the 
popular conscience and impair the virtue of the people. It neutralizes the influence which we ought to exert on the world 
as a nation whose mission it is to extend the principles of political freedom. It degrades our national character, making us 
appear before mankind as solemn hypocrites who declare "that all men are equal," and yet persist in holding a portion of 
them as Slaves, — who declare that "all are endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness," and yet take these rights from a sixth-part of their own community. Constantly to profess one thing 
and constantly to practice another must destroy the sinews of national virtue. 

In pure obedience to these principles which no circumstances can obscure and no time can change, we protest against 
any attempt to defend this system on the ground that the Slaves are often treated kindly. It is not a question of treatment, 
but of right; the greatest kindness would be no compensation for the rights which are withheld. 

We protest against any attempt to defend the system from the letter of the Scriptures or from practices recorded in the 
Old Testament, as a libel on God and Christ, which would, if successful, disprove the Bible and make disobedience to it a 
duty. If this system was not prohibited among ancient nations by positive law, it was not for the reason that it was right, 



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but that, like polygamy and other evil practices, "it was suffered for a time because of the hardness of their hearts." And if, 
from the imperfect knowledge under the old dispensation, "the time of this ignorance God winked at," yet now in the light 
of the Gospel, "he commands all men everywhere to repent." 

Finally, while we prescribe no man's course of action, we earnestly implore all to put forth their full energy, and in the 
most efficient modes, to show decidedly their sympathy with the Slave and their abhorrence of the system of oppression of 
which he is made the victim. 

We implore our brethren at the South, especially those who hold the same faith as ourselves, to show their faith by their 
works ; to come out from all participation in this sin, and, in the way they deem best, " to undo the heavy burden and let the 
oppressed go free." 

We implore our brethren at the North, who may go to reside in Slaveholding regions, to go determined to make every 
sacrifice of profit or convenience rather than become abettors of this inhuman institution. 

We implore all Christians and Christian preachers to unite in unceasing prayer to God for aid against this sj r stem, to 
lose no opportunity of speaking the truth and spreading light on this subject, in faith that the truth is strong enough to break 
every yoke. We pray them to remember those whose hearts were in this cause, who have ascended on high. If Chanuing, 
Follen, Worcester and Ware are still mindful of what is passing below, they must be looking to us to take their places and 
do their work. Wherefore seeing we are compassed by such witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and do the work of 
him who sent us while it is day. 

And we, on our part, do hereby pledge ourselves before God and our brethren, never to be weary of laboring in the 
cause of human rights and freedom till Slavery be abolished and every Slave made free. 



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